Will Forte. Photo: Irene Cho

Listen now:

[FilmLinc spoke with Nebraska co-star Will Forte at the Cannes Film Festival where the film, directed by Alexander Payne, had its World Premiere as part of our Cannes Daily Buzz. The feature had its U.S. debut at the 51st New York Film Festival and is heading out to theaters beginning this weekend. FilmLinc will also feature a live chat with Bruce Dern at NYFF after the film's first screening. It will be featured in the coming days.]

Widely known for his comedy routines in both television and film, including Saturday Night Live, MacGruber and Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie and voice work in animated series American Dad and Bob's Burgers, actor Will Forte has taken a turn for the dramatic lately, including a starring role in Tribeca's Run & Jump and most recently at the Cannes Film Festival playing opposite Bruce Dern in Alexander Payne's Official Competition entry, Nebraska.

“I was very happy doing comedy movies and this just kind of happened and I still can't believe it. I'm so thankful for the opportunity,” said Forte.

The actor joined Film Society's Daily Buzz for an afternoon conversation last week at the Carlton Hotel just off the Croisette, a day after the World Premiere of Nebraska. In the black and white film set in Montana and Nebraska, he plays the straight-laced son of Woody (Dern) an aging, booze-swigging father who repeatedly escapes from his house en route to Lincoln, where he believes he'll cash in on a million dollar sweepstakes ticket. Woody's efforts are dashed time and time again, never getting much further than the outskirts of his drab rural town. Woody's sons and feisty wife, played brilliantly by June Squibb, debate whether to put Woody into a home, but Forte's character, David, decides to engage his father's blind determination and agrees to drive him to Lincoln to determine once and for all the legitimacy of his sweepstakes.

“Our personal relationship really mirrored the relationship of the script,” said Forte. “We spent so much time together making this that, by the end, we—God, we were really, really close. And, you know, I love the guy.”

Ahead of the film's debut Payne admitted that Forte did not occur to him as a possibility to play David, but he was won over by his audition. Forte took the leap, pursuing the role of the steady blue-collar son in part because he wanted to work with the Oscar-winning filmmaker.

“The first thing that jumped out at me was that the movie was being directed by Alexander Payne, who is amazing, and I think any actor who’s not crazy wants to work with Alexander Payne, of course. He is awesome and I love all his movies, so I immediately was interested, then read the script—the script is great. And I felt a connection to this character, but never thought that I could realistically have any shot to get the role. But, you know, it was just such a nice script I thought, what the heck. So, I put myself on tape and sent it in.”

Despite his recent flirtation with drama, Will Forte is not turning his back on comedy. Projects in the pipeline return him to the genre that first brought him notoriety, but he plans to also take on future dramatic roles.

“I would just love to try anything. You know, I’m open to anything, and this is just an opportunity I never thought I would get. I’m so proud of it and just thankful for Alexander to let me be a part of it. “

Listen to more Daily Buzz podcast interviews from Cannes here on FilmLinc Daily, or on Fandor or iTunes.